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P-38: F-40 set-up vs. Long fairing w/bodysock?

This is my first posting. I suspect I have read through most of the Archives....a fantastic Forum! Have learned a lot.

I ride an ER with Zzipper fairing and recently a body sock as well. In addition to DF's in the past I have ridden a Stratus, V-Rex and Rocket. I miss the SWB experience.

Having always been impressed by the P-38 I decided to purchase one. I found a 2002 P-38 that should arrive in about 10 psyched! I haven't sat on one, and hope this works out. The worst scenario is I will purchase a well cared for P-38 and then someone else will enjoy it if it "doesn't work out". However, I doubt that will be the case.

My new bent comes with a long fairing....don't know if it is a Zzipper or Mueller? I have been amazed at the difference when adding my body sock to my faired ER.

I am really curious about a couple of P-38/fairing wonderings.
What are some of the differences you notice in aerodynamics/speed when using 1. a longer fairing and 2. a longer fairing with body sock? And, how significant is the difference between a socked/long fairing P-38 and a P-38 with the F-40 upgrade. Does the use of a circular nosecone with fairing vs. a long fairing/body sock make that much of a difference?

btw: I get my body socks from Melanie:

Joe.... thanks again for an amazing Forum.....
I look forward to your fairing experiences...

Hi Bob,

Thanks for the kind words regarding the forum and site. The forum often seems moribund, but I like to think that the quality of the discussion is high. Bryan Ball's Bentrider Online site is the place to go for the most diverse discussion, and Warren Beauchamp's is the main site for builders and racers.

About your new-to-you Lightning and fairings: As I see it, there are four good options for fairing the bike:

1) Just use the little handlebar-mounted Zzipper fairing available from Lightning. You will have little or no hassle, and a modest expense. Sometimes they are available used at low prices. However, the speed increase you can expect is very small. Unless you are a strong rider, you may not even notice any benefit.

2) Use a larger Zzipper or Mueller (now Terracycle) fairing together with a bodysock. In the gallery area of this site, about one third of the way down, there is a picture of a bike set up this way. This is probably the smartest move for you to make, since you already own the front bubble fairing. One of your Easy Racer bodysocks might be adapted to the Lightning with a little Velcro and ingenuity. Or perhaps Melanie V. at Free Form Fashions could create one tailored to the specific dimensions of your Lightning bike. This will give you a much greater benefit than the little handlebar-mounted Zzipper.

I would not be inclined to use the larger Zzipper or Mueller fairing by itself. Without the bodysock, it just will not help you very much. The problem is that you sit too far back on a Lightning, too far away from the fairing to do much good.

But together with the sock, you will notice a real difference for the better.

3) The best way to fly on a Lightning P-38 is to shell out the $2000 to Tim Brummer for the complete F40 fairing: fiberglass nosecone, aluminum tail framework, and Spandex bodysock. If you really love going fast, this is the way to go. There is a downside though: you will need to learn to handle the bike safely in strong gusting sidewinds - especially if you are a light weight rider. And the riders you usually hang out with will not be able to keep up with you anymore. You will need to find a group of professional bike racers - or Category 1 & 2 amateurs - to hang with.

4) One last alternative is the do-it-yourself F40 made out of Coroplast. There is a picture of Chris Broome with a red Coroplast creation in the gallery. Not as nice and slick looking as a real F40, but still extremely fast. And dirt cheap, if you do not mind spending some time cutting up, shaping, and pop-riveting a home brew fairing together.

In a nutshell: try the sock with your front bubble fairing first. You may already have everything you need to do this. You could cobble together a rear support for the sock out of some fiberglass tent poles, or some old fiberglass fishing rods. This should keep you grinning for quite some time.

If you eventually covet the very fastest set-up, buy the F40 fairing from Lightning or home brew something similar yourself.

Write back again after you have some miles on the bike. Let us know your impressions, for good and/or ill. This sleepy discussion forum needs some fresh blood.

Safe riding,

Thanks Joel....a great help!

I plan to check out the fairing that is coming with the bike...and either use my body sock or talk with Melanie about a new sock.

Having built wooden kayaks, I am really interested in Chris Broome's project and will take a close look. Already checked out some designs on this morning....really neat stuff there!
Will definitely get back after arrival and really lucky to have found this neat red P-38. The former owner clearly loved this bike and took good care.
Thanks again!

I measure my large Lightning p-38 as being close to 4 feet and 4 inches long with the rear wheel removed, and the crankset boom inserted as deeply into the main frame as possible. If your crankset boom has the F40 fairing mounting stub sticking out, add about two inches more. An extra large frame might be another two inches long.

Good luck with the bike. It might be a good idea to just do some riding without any fairing at all first, just to get familiar with the way the Lightning feels. The handling is completely different from the Easy Racer long recumbent: much more agile and responsive. A tiny movement of the handlebar will yield a big change in the steering, unlike the slow handling of the Easy Racer. So you cannot go off into La La Land when riding the P-38. You need to stay sharp.

I enjoy both types of recumbent. I have owned two Tour Easy bikes in the past, and had a lot of fun with them. The Tour Easy is a great bike for just cruising along and relaxing. But it is faster than it looks, and can be very quick on the flats and downhills when set up with the front fairing and sock.

Safe riding,

Thanks for the measurements Joel.
And....good advice regarding getting accustomed to the P-38 handling. The bike should be shipped today, am psyched......will get back once I have a chance to do some riding!

I have two bents left in my stable after twenty plus years of riding. One is a nearly antique Rans Stratus A. It was my first bent and saw a lot of miles. It sat neglected and ignored in favor of new rides but always held a place in my heart. After a recent complete makeover, it barely resembles its former self. It now has an Easy Racers front end including handle bars, a carbon fiber fork, cf fairing, cf fenders, and finally cf Aero Spoke wheels. It has a modified Rans seat with Lightning mesh. Melanie at Free Form Fashions has created several awesome socks to choose from.
My top speed so far is around fifty-five down the mountains and she's rock solid. It's like owning your own carnival ride.
The other bent is more of a "high stepper" as the old geezers would say. It's an R-84 Daytona. I'm in the process of fitting it out F-40 kit. It should be interesting to compare the two styles side by side. I'm anxious to see if there is as big a difference as I've heard.


Hi Rainbow,

I had a few rides on a RANS Stratus and enjoyed it. The road feel was very smooth, even smoother than a Tour Easy. Maybe the RANS frame had a little bit of flexiness built in, or perhaps it was the foam seat bottom, or a combination of the two. A very cushy ride, especially with fatter tires not pumped up hard as rocks. For most of us, being comfy was the main motivation for getting into recumbent cycling in the first place.

The Lightning with a full fairing is a closer approximation to a full streamliner that a socked LWB, and this makes the bike much faster. The bottom of the bike is closed off by the Spandex sock, while the bottom of the LWB bikes and the lower part of the rider is exposed. Granted, there is a downside. You have to get used to getting your feet through the slits on the Lightning sock, while getting your feet down with the open bottom LWB bike is easy. With a little practice the habit of putting your feet through the slits should become second nature. It is somewhat like getting used to using clipless pedals.

When you have some miles on your fully faired Lightning bike, please write up a compare-and-contrast with your socked RANS. It would be of interest to other recumbent people.

Safe riding,


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